Dear Friends –
At the end of the week, a hike or bike ride through Rock Creek National Park, in Washington DC, is a cleansing antidote to a heavy work schedule and the stress of city living. When that hike or bike ride includes a chance meeting with a creature of the forest, however, it becomes a magical, even spiritual, experience. To spot a red fox or a pileated woodpecker really makes our day. To come upon a peaceful, gentle doe and fawn, or a magnificent buck standing in a glen, takes our breath away and confers upon us a profound feeling of gratitude and wellbeing that lasts all week. To know that these beautiful and gentle animals are in the park living out their lives is very important to us. While the world is in upheaval all around us it makes us inexplicably happy and hopeful to know that, at least in the wilds of Rock Creek Park, all is as it should be.
In the spring of 2012, however, the wellbeing of the Park was suddenly threatened. The National Park Service, for the first time in the 123-year history of the park, ordered the killing of half of the park’s 314 deer in the first year of a multi-year killing program for the stated purpose of protecting native plant species from “overbrowsing.” These practically tame deer, who have never before been harassed or hunted, were ordered to be shot with guns and archery after being lured to piles of grain, apples and hay; others would be killed after capturing them with nets and shooting them in the head with penetrating captive-bolt guns, or by bleeding them to death.
A coalition of dedicated Washington residents, attorneys, and animal-protection groups, including In Defense of Animals (IDA), has studied the Park Service proposal in depth and has concluded that the Park Service proposal is not only unprecedented, but it is unnecessary, ineffective, inefficient, inhumane and unacceptable.
There are so many reasons to oppose the Park Service plan:
First, eliminating the deer is unnecessary as there is no deer overpopulation in Rock Creek Park at this time. The Park Service’s own records clearly state that there is no current over-population of deer in Rock Creek Park. Instead, the Park Service plan states that killing is needed to address the “POTENTIAL” of deer becoming the dominant force in the park’s ecosystem, and that deer “COULD POSSIBLY” affect the forest “IN THE FUTURE.”
Secondly, deer aren’t destroying Rock Creek Park; invasive exotic plants are. Since 1996, the National Park Service has identified invasive non-native plants entering the park from neighboring properties to be “the most serious threat to this natural area and the top management priority.” By 2012, however, the Park Service had failed to stem the overwhelming spread of exotic plants and blamed the deer for damage to native plants instead.
Third, even if there were a deer overpopulation problem in Rock Creek Park, killing is unnecessary. There are effective non-lethal ways to control the deer population, and there are many non-lethal ways of protecting plants from deer. Several reproductive control agents developed for wildlife are readily available and have been successfully used elsewhere in the country – including by the National Park Service on other lands under its jurisdiction. The cost is comparable to or less than a killing program. In addition, fencing, deer repellants, and other non-lethal means are used routinely across the country to successfully protect plants from deer.
Fourth, hunting and killing is an ineffective and inefficient way to regulate the deer population. When food is plentiful, deer tend to have twins and even triplets. When food is scarce, they have single fawns, or stop reproducing altogether. After many deer are killed the remaining ones will produce even more fawns since even more food will be available to them. In addition, deer who are killed will rapidly be replaced by deer immigrants from adjacent Maryland.
Fifth, lethal deer controls are inhumane. Luring deer with food and then ambushing them with bullets and archery, capturing them with nets and smashing their skulls with penetrating captive bolts, or bleeding them to death, is brutal and inhumane. In fact, killing wild animals after luring them with food is considered to be so offensive that it is illegal in 28 states.
Archery is widely acknowledged to be a particularly inhumane method of killing. Statistics show that the wounding rate is over 50 percent. This means that for every animal dragged from the woods by a bow hunter, at least one animal is left to suffer and die a slow, excruciating death.
Lastly, killing the deer was overwhelmingly opposed by the public during public comment periods on the Park Service proposal. Fifty-three times as many comments supported an option to use only non-lethal means than opposed it. Fourteen times as many comments opposed the lethal reduction of deer than supported it.
Non-lethal means to control the Rock Creek Park deer are also favored by many elected officials including several members of Congress. Among them are Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, DC, Rep. James. P. Moran of Virginia, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
While we have been able to stall the kill temporarily for the past few months through a lawsuit, the Rock Creek Park deer now desperately need your help. The National Park Service needs to hear from you that killing deer in the middle of the nation’s capital is not acceptable. Please join us by imploring the National Park Service to choose humane, science-based alternatives – such as contraception -- instead of killing. Here in the nation’s capital we should be creating a model for peaceful co-existence with wildlife and exporting that model to other communities.
Please sign this petition and circulate it to as many people as you can in the United States and around the world. For more information, visit Save the Rock Creek Park Deer on Facebook.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONCERN AND FOR YOUR HELP!
Jeremy R. Rifkin and Carol Grunewald
The killing of wild animals has never been permitted in this jewel of the National Park system since the park’s creation in 1890, and there is no need for such unprecedented and inhumane action now. As the Park Service has stated, there is no current overpopulation problem. The deer population has remained relatively stable over the years and is in good health; there is no visible browse line in the forest. To the extent that there is some damage to some plants in the park, the National Park Service’s own studies demonstrate overwhelmingly that invasive non-native plants are to blame. Moreover, if there is any need to control the future population growth of deer, this can be done humanely and cost-effectively with the use of several available fertility control agents that have been used successfully elsewhere, including some other properties maintained by the Park Service.
Killing the deer, with guns and archery, will forever change the character of this very special national park in the midst of our nation’s Capital from a haven of peace and tranquility to just one more place of violence. We urge the government to do everything in its power to fulfill its mandate to protect and preserve the deer of Rock Creek Park.